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Transverse Radiation of light

  1. Mar 4, 2005 #1
    Recently, while perusing a Physics textbook (collected by the Bohr Library) that was published in 1901, I found a simple paragraph wherein the “transverse/lateral” radiation of light was acknowledged as being due to the ether medium rather than to the light itself.
    I’ve had the notion that since my first High School Physics course in 1939, neither ether nor transverse radiation has been broadly accepted. Not until the invisibility of a laser beam (whose presence is obviated by the presence in its path of Brownian particles such as dust or cigarette smoke) was transverse radiation invalidated. Quote follows:

    “Light, as distinguished from the sensation of seeing, is a periodic or undulatory disturbance in a medium which is assumed to exist everywhere in space, even penetrating between the molecules of ordinary matter. This medium is known as the ether. Light waves do not consist of alternate condensations and rarefactions, as in sound, but of periodic transverse disturbances. These disturbances are probably not transverse movements of the ether itself, but transverse alterations in the electrical and magnetic condition of the ether. But whatever may be the nature of the medium, light is a wave motion in it, and the vibrations are transverse.”

    Since light does not radiate electricity or magnetism in any manner or in any direction, what is the real proof of transverse radiation of light? Perhaps some scholar can explain how so-called “entanglement” might occur without transverse radiation.
    Cheers, Jim
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2005 #2


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    This is basically what I think, only I've an idea that makes it easier to see how these transverse patterns could be formed. Underlying light waves could be other waves, of much higher frequency, produced by pulsating sources. The periodic motion of the sources can cause transverse patterns in the emitted waves, despite these being longitudinal. The mechanism is illustrated by an animation in Gabriel LaFreniere's page <<link removed>>.

    If this really is something like the true mechanism, it makes if much easier to reconcile observations with the existence of an aether, for longitudinal waves can propagate at high speed in a fluid. We don't need the very stiff solid that would be needed for purely transverse waves.

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2011
  4. Mar 4, 2005 #3

    Hans de Vries

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    The web-site you're referring to is unfortunately not that useful. Although
    there's a nice illustration on page 9 demonstrating the time shift of Special
    Relativity. His images of matter waves however don't make any sense.

    A mass viewed from it's rest frame has the same phase everywhere while
    the deBroglie wave-length is purely a result of non-simultaneity, the time
    shift which occurs when we go to another reference frame.

    For a good understanding of the combination of Special Relativity and
    Electro Magnetism in general I should advice studying the Lienard Wiechert
    potentials. They go beyond the Maxwell picture with it's instantaneous
    potentials and handle the potentials as propagating from the source with
    the speed of light.

    After that one can go one step further in Special Relativity an handle the
    Magnetic Field purely as a relativistic site effect of the Electric Field of
    charges in relative motion. In other words: What we call Magnetic forces
    are in fact Electric forces.

    Regards, Hans.
  5. Mar 6, 2005 #4


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    But how about his images of light? They make perfect sense to me! See animation <<link removed>> .

    Possibly there is a conflict with quantum theory, but I don't think Maxwell would have had a problem with the idea that all his "fields" were in fact caused by high frequency longitudinal waves from pulsating sources. When those sources oscillate, they cause patterns that are, in part, transverse, in the emitted waves. It may be these patterns that we detect as "radiation".

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2011
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